Albums: Boyzone's goodbye, Bublé's back, Mumford & Sons, Little Mix...
Thank You and Goodnight
Get ready to shed a tear or three – Boyzone are back for one last outing. The Irish boy band are bidding farewell after a successful 25-year career and are doing so with an album of 12 new tracks. The irony is that the record is a real triumph and serves as a frustrating reminder that there just aren't many bands of this pop-friendly calibre around these days. With a helping hand from songwriters Ed Sheeran and Gary Barlow, there is little here that under-delivers, and the four singers have given it their all. Love, penned by Barlow, is an anthem, while Normal Boy is a peppier effort, reminiscent of their 1997 hit Picture Of You. Because, by Sheeran, is all bouncy guitars and clever lyrics, and it works for lead singer Ronan Keating's honeyed vocals. Dream, created from a 2002 demo of Gately's and reworked with the band harmonising, is touchingly beautiful. The band are certainly bowing out on a high.
Only Michael Buble could return from a two-year break and make old songs sound fresh and new. The Canadian crooner has been out of the spotlight following his eldest son Noah's diagnosis with cancer at the age of three in November 2016. His 10th album, Love – styled as a heart emoji – is a collection of old favourites and a few memorable new tunes. Buble injects his trademark magic into songs such as When I Fall In Love and I Only Have Eyes For You. Admittedly it's his new material – Love You Anymore (written by Charlie Puth) and Forever Now that actually leave you wanting more of the same. The latter is a spine-chilling, personal ballad that is sure to win him even more fans. His take on Elvis Presley's Such A Night is a treat, and Frank Sinatra's When You're Smiling is a dash of easy listening. Welcome back, Buble.
Mumford & Sons
Have Mumford & Sons matured? Nearly 10 years on from the release of their debut album, the band return with Delta, an album that sounds confident, exciting and – dare it be said – experimental. Producing is Paul Epworth, the studio wizard responsible for Adele's 21 and more recently Coldplay's Ghost Stories. With Epworth's guiding hand, the band have recorded the album previous LP Wilder Mind should have been. On album standout The Wild, they delve into synthscapes and plucked melodies before a cinematic left turn sees the introduction of cascading cymbals and strings. An album of highs and lows, Delta is remarkably paced. It lifts the listener with an opening salvo of guitar-heavy hits before dropping them into a dark, marauding world of electronic sounds. Then, just when the band appear to have strayed too far from their folky hearts, second single If I Say tugs the listeners back towards the light. Mumford & Sons might be on to something here.
Little Mix have just moved from The X Factor's Simon Cowell's label Syco to RCA (all owned by Sony), so does this mean that over the recording of this fifth studio album the ladies have decided to change their musical direction? The teenage girl favourites have embraced the sound and feels of early-90s pop music, and parts are highly reminiscent of Janet Jackson, with musical stylings not too far away from Snoop Dogg or at times Ginuwine. The whole album sounds vaguely familiar, with some dancehall strains thrown in on Joan Of Arc. Love A Girl Right is practically Sisqo's Thong Song but this is in no way a bad thing, making it a total late-night dance-a-long bop. What we do have here is a definite step up lyrically, and a more grown-up tone. Considering their fan base are also growing up, this is a good idea. LM5 is Little Mix's coming-of-age disc.
Confessin' The Blues
The Rolling Stones are behind this particular collection, having curated the choice of tracks in conjunction with the record companies BMG and Universal. As a nice gesture, a percentage of the (very reasonable) purchase price goes to Willie Dixon's Blues Heaven Foundation. So buyers can not only learn about the music that was a cornerstone of the creation of rock as it is known today, but also help a worthy cause. And it even comes with a cover painted by Ronnie Wood. Mick'n'Keef bonded over Muddy Waters, so it is hardly surprising the first track is his classic tune, Rollin' Stone. Big stars such as Howlin Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley are well represented but various lesser names also get a look-in to provide balance. Some of the songs will be familiar from other versions – I Can't Quit You Baby will be known to Led Zep fans, while Dust My Broom has been covered by Canned Heat and ZZ Top among others. The tracks are the originals in most cases and the recording quality is what can be expected for the time, even though they will have been technically "cleaned up". There are a few more modern recordings but this doesn't detract in any way. For anyone wanting a crash course in the blues this would provide the perfect place to start. For the experienced blues aficionado, it's a neat collection to have handy when the mood strikes.